Beyond maybe Oriental Sunshine and Magic Carpet, The Moths possibly produced the mellowest of all of the ‘60s/’70s psychedelic folk records.
Comprised of five Hull University students, The Moths (who’re also sometimes referred to as just ‘Moths’) developed a small local following with their warmly relaxed bucolic sound. The band’s style is somewhat reminiscent of the most reserved moments of Mike Heron’s Incredible String Band tunes and Donovan’s late ‘60s output, with tranquil flutes and hand drums accompanying multiple acoustic guitars and smooth vocals. Being college students, you can tell that the members had a finger on the pulse of what records were popular in the underground at the time. While it may not be surprising to find a strong Dylan cover on their album, (“I Shall Be Released,”) you would probably not expect for the record to also feature renditions of songs by Clive Palmer, David Ackles and several by Bert Jansch. The album also contains one of the only Tim Buckley covers that possibly came out by 1970: the hauntingly kaleidoscopic “Phantasmagoria in Two.”
The eclectic group, sometimes a quintet and at other times a trio, gigged around Hull (including a supporting slot for Wishbone Ash, which would have been interesting to witness!) throughout 1970 and were eventually offered to record a demo tape at the university’s theater building. The tape was then transferred onto a very limited amount of privately pressed vinyl records and shortly after that, Moths’ tracks suddenly go cold.
I can’t seem to find too much about why they didn’t continue beyond 1970 or if they attempted to present the demo recordings to any labels or not. Even the official group’s website doesn’t explain what happened after that year, so I’m assuming that their individual interests took the members elsewhere and that was that.
From what I’ve read, there were only ever a few dozen copies made of their sole recording, but somehow Kissing Spell Records came across one and transferred it to CD and reissued it (without permission) as Heron’s Daughter. The label also put the track, “Halfdan’s Daughter” (A.K.A. “The Heron”) onto the excellent The History of U.K. Underground Folk Rock 1968-1978 double compilation, which introduced me to the band and other obscure acid folk legends like Stone Angel and Shide and Acorn. The song also saw inclusion on the similar and more popular Dust on The Nettles underground folk compilation that came out in 2015.
In the wake of these releases, the band reunited in 2009 and has since reissued their album onto vinyl on their own as well as released a follow up of new recordings back in 2012. The band even played just a few days ago at the Dionysus Festival of Psychedelia in Derby, England.
For a very intimate dose of cozy, mossy psychedelic folk music, you could do no wrong by seeking out the lo-fi chillness that is The Moths.